The football club will test the Digital Billboard Replacement (DBR) process for the first time during Saturday’s (22 November) game against Swansea City, according to a source close to the situation.
It is not known which of the club’s sponsors will use the feature but if it is a success then the likes of Nike and Etihad could run region-specific ads or buy against specific audiences for future games.
Optics within the broadcast cameras are combined with software to identify the billboards and insert virtual content in real time into multiple feeds. Each ad can have different graphics including animation and video, while the brightness and differing speeds at which they appear can also be adjusted.
The process is already being used in Spain’s La Liga, where matches for clubs such as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona give advertisers a minimum of 20 minutes on those feeds shown in other countries. Media owner and technology supplier Supponor is providing its own DBRLive service for the Spanish clubs and hopes to pioneer the service in the UK.
DBR has been slow to come to the Premier League because unlike in Span, where much of the signage is controlled by one agency, the clubs own the rights. It has meant the clubs have had to try and justify the inclusion of the process to broadcasters and the league despite the technology yielding no commercial returns for either.
However, with broadcast rights for the league expected to go to market early next year, it is likely DBR could be factored into the deal, claims the source. The league will encourage broadcasters to adopt the technology should enough clubs lobby for it and they prove that it will not have negative effect on the brand, they add.
Pitch-side boards, while still valuable due to their broadcast exposure, are seen as one of the more restrictive commercial assets. Consequently, clubs such as City and Arsenal have restricted billboards to their own sponsors, while others have sold the space to non-sponsors in order to maximise the inventory.
Manchester City did not respond to requests for comment by the time this article was published.